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Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Ivan the Terrible Concert Scenario [59:14]
CHANDOS CHAN 10536 X [59:14]

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op. 74 [46:32]
Excerpts from The Tale of the Stone Flower, Op. 118 [25:58]
CHANDOS CHAN 10537 X [72:43]

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphonic Suite from War and Peace (arr. C. Palmer) [27:02]
Summer Night: Suite from 'The Duenna', Op. 123 [22:31]
Russian Overture Op. 72 [14:08]
CHANDOS CHAN 10538 X [63:03]

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet: Suites Nos. 1-3
CHANDOS CHAN 10539 X [78:48]

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 [21:56]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 [25:47]
Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in F minor , Op. 80 [29:45]
CHANDOS CHAN 10540 X [77:50]

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Eugene Onegin - Melodrama in Sixteen Scenes Op. 71 [124:11]
CHANDOS CHAN 10541(2) X [74:05 + 50:06]
Experience Classicsonline

Chandos long ago outstripped Melodiya in the depth of their coverage of Prokofiev's music. As with so many of their series they have produced in quantity without compromising on quality and over very extended time-scales. Let's not forget that one of their earliest CDs in 1986 was Järvi's Prokofiev 6. More recently they have recorded with Järvi an unfashionable yet blazingly ardent On Guard for Peace. I keep expecting or is it hoping that they will produce a disc of his neglected film music as well: no, not Nevsky, Ivan or Kije but his 1940s scores for Lermontov and Partisans of the Steppe. Such is the vintage of the Chandos treasury that recordings of the 1980s and 1990s are now emerging at a rate of knots at mid-price. This is the latest harvest following some individual issues and the Järvi sets of the symphonies and piano concertos.

If you have not come across the concert scenario for the film music for Ivan the Terrible then you have a treat in store with Järvi's fulsomely recorded version. This sequence differs from several other versions in that there is no narrator. Although I am not convinced by the heated and manically driven Overture - just too fast - it does shudder with a sense of chaos and terror which is faithful to the portrayed mood. The Russian Sea is taken by Linda Finnie who adopts a completely idiomatic Slavonic wobble. This contrasts with the deep and luxurious, indeed magical, pile of the Philharmonia Chorus. The recording is stunning with the subtle hard orchestral underpinning for The Wedding lovingly caught beneath the whirling delight of the chorus. Fire and Tartars and Cannoneers aptly pick up on the violence and flame-licking terror as well as using bells that sound as if they might be the vast onion-cupola giants we imagine from the Eisenstein films. At 9:26 The Storming of Kazan is the single largest episode. It is handled with wonderful concentration and burnished string tone. Track 11 with its hummed chorus for Ivan's sickness is enchantingly distanced. The contrast between the limping sinister music for Ephrosynia the poisoner and Ivan's dear wife Anastasia is sharply chiselled. The Lady Macbeth-like Ephrosynia's Song of the Beaver is threaded through with her dark ambition for her simpleton son Vladimir. The Banquet in the film is marked by the emergence of colour in the film. In this music only version the howling whistles around Nikita Storojev's ruthless Song of the Oprichniki with its Old Testament and Orff-like savagery are memorable. Ferocity and a screaming savage deckle edge to the sound add Technicolor emphasis. The Finale takes the pulverising counter-melody from the Overture and with the chorus lends the piece a triumphant and towering finality that would have been heightened had the composer had time to extend it.

You may know the piece from versions with narrator, early Melodiya and Muti. Those who found the narration too much of a good thing can take heart from this recording which is more than well worth its return to availability at mid-price.

Polyansky: Ivan the Terrible (complete) and The Ballad of an Unknown Boy Chandos
Fedoseyev Nimbus
Muti (with narrator: Morgunov) EMI Classics
Slatkin Warner (with narrator: Russell Beale)

For me the main attraction in this fascinating batch of discs is the magnificent Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution. It is here presented in its unbowdlerised version including Stalin's speeches towards the end. Kondrashin was forced to elide them in his first recording. However let's not confuse politics with musical worth troubling though the process of separating one from the other in a cantata of this type may be. The forces used are massive and they are used to huge effect. Loudness and awe are not of course enough. In fact this music has a dizzying concentration that is bound to impress and some poetry too.

The performance history of the piece is fascinating. Completed in 1937, it was buried by the denunciations of that era until 1966 when it was performed and then recorded -against the conductor's wishes - minus two crucial substantial episodes which set words by Stalin. This Chandos recording which is complete, faithful to the original schema as to instrumentation and has all sections as written was performed in this form for the first time anywhere outside Eastern Europe by Järvi at the RFH in 1992.

The choir is large and subdivided into two section - eight parts. There is a super-augmented orchestra with quadruple woodwind and eight horns alongside three augmentary instrumental groups: six accordions or bayans, a seventeen strong windband including six further trumpets to add to the four already in the orchestra and a percussion ensemble with alarm bells, cannon-shot, sirens (9:22 in Revolution tr. 6) and the kitchen sink. In the wild fervent rumpus that is Revolution the voice of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky rings out through a megaphone orating the words of Lenin. One can somehow see the smoke of insurrection, feel its sting, the howls of heightened awareness and hysteria and the bloody fervour of the words. This is the same movement in which the Bayan band appear. The bayans return for The Oath: Stalin's pledge in his speech at Lenin's bierside. It too burns with conviction - faithful to the original sentiments of the extension of the Communist International into a spreading worldwide alliance. It is greatly to the credit of the Philharmonia chorus and Simon Halsey that the flame burns bright, steady and intense. The final and tenth movement, The Constitution, again sets Stalin's words

There are no soloists except for Rozhdestvensky and his spoken cameo - the voice of the people speaking the words of their hortators into the dazzling sun. Overdose on grandiloquence and blazing fervour. In case you think this is all unremitting grandstanding the quietly intimate silvery sheen of the strings in Victory shines forth.

The notes are by Christopher Palmer and all the words are there in the booklet: transliterated Russian alongside French, German and English translations.

When this disc was first released in 1992 while not impossible to track down full recordings of Prokofiev's third Soviet ballet The Tale of the Stone Flower were difficult to come by. CPO and Chandos have put that right in style since. Even so there is a place for this twenty-five minute sequence from Prokofiev's full-length ballet: whooping brass, gypsy flavour, echoes of Romeo and Juliet (how could he escape it), dark clouded tension, shrieking tangy woodwind, the swayingly touching solo of the gypsy girl (tr.17) and stamping, crashing fury.

Järvi: On Guard for Peace on Chandos.
Polyansky: Hail Stalin and Flourish Mighty Land
Rozhdestvensky: Ode to the End of the War

Järvi forsook Glasgow in 1992 for the next disc. The War and Peace symphonic suite was arranged by Christopher Palmer who also wrote the notes for this disc. It serves as a compact epitome of this grandest of epic operas. One is somehow more aware of the psychological element here which adds sobriety and tragic colour to the dances. The three movement suite is helpful tracked into components so that we end up with seven tracks in all. The May Night intermezzo is almost Tchaikovskian in its sweet Tatiana and Juliet echoes; warm, verdant and youthful music. The Finale catches the whirling snowstorm in a Klimtian style that recalls Herrmann and Korngold. These are gusts not zephyrs and the tinsel glitter is razor-edged. Next comes the tumultuous breathless battle-scene with abrasive gallstone brass. This rises to a triumphant finale which makes use of the Marshal Kutuzov theme in turn recycled from Ivan the Terrible - Storming of Kazan.

Away from the epic we move to Summer Night - the suite from the Rossinian opera The Duenna also known as Betrothal in a Monastery. This is based on Sheridan. The opera was written in 1940 but the suite was made in 1950. The music moves across five movements between a range of Romeo and Juliet-style classical dances to evocations of warm Ukraine summer midnights. The final scudding Dance (allegretto) is delectable and delectably recorded.

The Russian Overture is from the years of the composer's return to the Soviet Union. One instantly notices a Stravinskian flavour - for me it is the tight-taut Pulcinella rather than the claimed Petrushka. A grand romantic sweep is also there as at 2:24. It is all perhaps a shade too densely populated with instrumentation and invention. Grand striding piano-decorated ideas abound towards the end with rushing string phrases and a web of solo instrumentation. This is a rich canvas constantly in motion. Luxury recording too and ending in blaze of gong and percussion.

Romeo and Juliet suites: Rising 79 minutes of Prokofiev's ballet score in three suites - the first two at a half hour each. These are from the year after completion of the full work. The whole ballet was staged for first time in Brno in 1938 with Lavrosky's classic version being given for the first time in 1940 in Leningrad. The two suites predate these key events and gave the music concert currency three years before the Brno theatre premiere.  

Suite No. 1 balances quirky-gawky dances with drama. Järvi and Chandos make much of the dynamic contrasts, front-to-back perspective and chamber textures (1:21 Romeo and Juliet tr. 6) which adds greatly to this vivid presentation. I especially enjoyed the angry edge to the strings in Death of Tybalt ending the Suite No.1.

The Second Suite has a more symphonic-tragic aspect. It begins with the beetling minatory blast of Montagues and Capulets and ends with the piled high searing excoriation of Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet. This contrasts with the flighty The Young Juliet and Dance (vivo) and the fragile and pointed emotion of Dance of the Antilles girls. Romeo at Juliet before parting provides a tense central foundation for this well structured suite.

With the war over the ballet was set for a series of new fully-staged productions in Moscow. Prokofiev compiled a third suite which at a concert on 8 March 1946 trail-blazed the December 1946 theatrical re-launch. It is an entertaining taster serving well to heighten anticipation in a readily assimilable package spanning six movements and just over 18 minutes. Järvi spins the Aubade very fast indeed - a carousel effect which I found just a shade heartless beside so much else that worked so well. Still it kept Edwin Paling, the SNO leader very much on the edge of his seat. It ends with a oh-so-slowly-dragged Death of Juliet. This just might be too much of a good thing but the weight of the SNO strings certainly comes across in satisfying tonal splendour.

I note that the name of the orchestra as it existed at the time of the recording is preferred. It is listed as the SNO not the RSNO.

The Violin Concertos stand on either side of Prokofiev's departure from Russia. The first, as Noel Goodwin tells us, was orchestrated just as the Classical Symphony was being written. Mordkovitch emphasises the fragility and delicacy of the piece and incidentally reminds us of its later progeny: the Walton Violin Concerto. She stands against the magical yet now ancient Beecham-Szigeti mono version (Naxos) but emerges more than valiantly. She is aided by a most lovely, close yet lustrous and deep Chandos recording. This is a precise yet yieldingly romantic version which can be placed alongside the finest: Oistrakh and Sitkovetsky.

The Second Concerto was premiered by Robert Soetens in Madrid on 1 December 1935 in a deeply troubled Spain. The work lacks the saturated fairytale romance of its predecessor. It is more objective in mood yet still vulnerable and the central Andante Assai is classically cool. The finale sounds more neo-classical than usual here - at times recalling the Stravinsky concerto with cross-cutting ideas shaded in from Romeo and Juliet.

The Violin Sonata No.1 is longer than either of the two three movement concertos. It was premiered in Moscow in 1946 after a long gestation period dating back to 1939. The recording here is very much full-on as you will hear in the fittingly called Allegro brusco (II). The delicacy and liquid endearments of the Andante (III) look back to the diaphanous mastery of the First Concerto. The very close-up recording nevertheless preserves the intimacy.

There are good notes - the originals - by Noel Goodwin.

Although Järvi presided over the lion's share of the Chandos Prokofiev, Edward Downes entered the lists for the complete Onegin music. When the BBC were celebrating Prokofiev and Pushkin in 1980 they broadcast an Onegin dramatisation with Prokofiev's music. The conductor, with one of the BBC regional studio orchestras, was Downes who also gave a broadcast talk on the music. He has known the score for many years. It's a neglected lyric gem and as is this recording which runs five or so minutes over two hours. The score was published in Russia in 1973 some 37 years after Prokofiev had finished work.

Sir Charles Johnston's translation of the Pushkin original is in rhymed verses. For the most part the words are neatly and sometime superbly turned. Occasionally the rhyming scheme is too obviously laboured or one winces with a contrived consonance but overall this is beautiful and poignant. The music has the breath and pulse of romance indeed it races and strolls with delight, musing in ecstasy or threaded with bitterness for tragedy. Echoes of other scores including Romeo and Juliet are interleaved with other inspirations. It is wonderful to have this now at mid-price. However having this as a supplement to the Capriccio set where the text is spoken in Russian is best.

Timothy West is a wonderfully understated speaker who avoids the shoals of reading a rhymed scheme. Sam West is Onegin, Niamh Cusack as Tatyana and Dominic Mafham as Lensky. The silvery playing of the orchestra can best be heard in scene 4. They play under the voices but there is no sense of balance twiddling. The two components - narration and music are achieved with equipoise. Niamh sounds not quite young enough to be Tatyana but this is ripe Prokofiev - at his most lyrical; his most poignant. Rewards are yielded ceaselessly in this melodrama in sixteen scenes. One macabre example is the harpsichord's manic gavotte in tr. 12. If you love the emotionalism and melodic profile of Romeo and Juliet this is a score you must hear.

The full English spoken text is in the booklet. Single width double CD case - with 40pp booklet.

Not to be missed if you need the English version. The Russian somehow as an additional lissom reach and squeeze on the heart.

Rob Barnett


Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Eugene Onegin - Melodrama in Sixteen Scenes Op. 71 [124:11]
Text by Alexander Pushkin in Sir Charles Johnson's English translation
Directed by Timothy West: Timothy West (Narrator); Samuel West (Eugene Onegin); Niamh Cusack (Tatyana); Dominic Mafham (Lensky); Helena McCarthy (Nurse - Larina - Anisia); Terrence Hardiman (Zaretsky - Prince - Neighbour); Katherine Fuge (soprano); Andrew Rutt (bass); Julian Walker (bass); The New Company; Sinfonia 21/Sir Edward Downes
rec. St Judes Church, Central Square, London NW11, 22 and 23 March and 25 July 1994
CHANDOS CHAN 10541(2) X [74:05 + 50:06]

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 [21:56]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 [25:47]
Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in F minor , Op. 80 [29:45]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin); Gerhard Oppitz (piano)
rec. Church of St Luke, Chelsea, London, 9 and 10 October 1984 (Violin Sonata No. 1); Glasgow City Hall, 27-30 September 1988 (other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10540 X [77:50]

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet: Suite No. 1, Op. 64 bis (1936) [28:28]; Suite No. 2, Op. 64 ter (1936) [31:35]; Suite No. 3, Op. 101 (1946) [18:27]
Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. SNO Centre, Glasgow, 4 and 5 December 1984 (Suite No. 1), 19 and 20 August and 10 December 1985 (Suite No. 2); 14-23 August 1985 (Suite No. 3)
CHANDOS CHAN 10539 X [78:48]

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphonic Suite from War and Peace (arr. C. Palmer) [27:02]
Summer Night: Suite from The Duenna, Op. 123 [22:31]
Russian Overture, Op. 72 [14:08]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. St Judes Church, Central Square, London NW11; 2 March 1991 (War and Peace) & 15 November 1992 (other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10538 X [63:03]

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op. 74 [46:32]
Gennady Rozhdestvensky (speaker)
Philharmonia Chorus
Excerpts from The Tale of the Stone Flower, Op. 118 [25:58]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. All Saints Church, Tooting, London 8 & 9 June 1992
CHANDOS CHAN 10537 X [72:43]

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Ivan the Terrible Concert Scenario [59:14]
Linda Finnie (alto); Nikita Storojev (bass)
Philharmonia Chorus
Philharmonia Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. St Judes Church, Central Square, London NW11 & 3 March 1991
CHANDOS CHAN 10536 X [59:14] 

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Eugene Onegin - Melodrama in Sixteen Scenes Op. 71
CD 1 74:05
1 Scene 1. Lensky at Larin's grave - 6:13
2 Scene 2. Onegin and Lensky at Lensky's country house - 9:10
3 Scene 3. At the sister's home - 3:40
4 Scene 4. Having taken a short cut, they're on their way home as fast as possible - 3:50
5 Scene 5. Tatyana in the park - 1:53
6 Scene 6. Tatyana and Nurse - 3:35
7 Scene 7. Tatyana's letter - 10:14
8 Scene 8. Onegin receives Tatyana's letter - 4:33
9 Scene 9. Onegin scolds Tatyana in Larin's garden - 6:04
10 Scene 10. Lensky and Onegin together in Lensky's house - 2:41
11 Scene 11. Tatyana's dream - 7:36
12 Scene 12. Larin's ball 14:29
CD 2 50:06
1 Scene 12 (cont/d). /Zaretsky left without discussion…' - 3:22
2 Scene 13. Duel - 3:22
3 Scene 14. Tatyana visits Onegin's house - 5:19
4 Scene 15. They say goodbye to peaceful valleys - 7:55
5 Waltz - 13:23
Scene 15 (cont'd). 'There came a murmur…'
6 Scene 16. Onegin's letter to Tatyana - 7:50
7 Scene 16 (cont'd). 'The days flew past' 8:49

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 21:56
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 25:47
Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in F minor , Op. 80 29:45

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
'Romeo and Juliet': Suite No. 1, Op. 64 bis (1936) 28:28; Suite No. 2, Op. 64 ter (1936) 31:35; Suite No. 3, Op. 101 (1946) 18:27
Suite No. 1, Op. 64 bis (1936) 28:28
1 Folk Dance. Allegro giocoso 4:22
2 Scene. Allegretto 1:31
3 Madrigal. Andante tenero 3:52
4 Minuet. Assai moderato 3:19
5 Masks. Moderato marciale 2:24
6 Romeo and Juliet. [ ] - Andante amoroso 8:26
7 Death of Tybalt. Precipitato 4:32
Suite No. 2, Op. 64 ter (1936) 31:35
1 Montagues and Capulets. [ ] - Allegro pesante 6:11
2 The Young Juliet. Vivace 4:06
3 Friar Laurence. Andante espressivo 2:48
4 Dance. Vivo 2:07
5 Romeo at Juliet's before Parting. Andante - Adagio 8:00
6 Dance of the Antilles Girls. Andante con eleganza 2:09
7 Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet. Adagio 6:11 
Suite No. 3, Op. 101 (1946) 18:27
1 Romeo at the Fountain. [ ] - Andante 1:48
2 Morning Dance. Allegro 2:31
3 Juliet. Moderato - Andante 4:37
4 The Nurse. Scherzando 2:13
5 Aubade. Andante giocoso 2:14
6 The Death of Juliet. Adagio 5:01

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphonic Suite from 'War and Peace' (arr. C. Palmer) 27:02
The Ball 11:38
1 I Fanfare and Polonaise 2:59
2 II Waltz. Allegro, ma non troppo 5:40
3 III Mazurka. Animato 2:58
4 Intermezzo - May Night 5:53
Andante assai
Finale 9:21
5 I Snowstorm. Tempestoso 2:11
6 II Battle. Allegro 3:56
7 III Victory. Allegro fastoso - Andante maestoso 3:13
Summer Night: Suite from 'The Duenna', Op. 123 22:31
8 I Introduction. Moderato, ma con brio - Più animato 2:25
9 II Serenade. Adagio 6:01
10 III Minuet. Allegro ma non troppo 2:46
11 IV Dreams. Andante tranquillo 8:01
12 V Dance. Allegretto 3:05

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op. 74 46:32
1 I Prelude. Moderato - Allegro 2:39
2 II The Philosophers. Andante assai 2:29
3 III Interlude. Allegro - Andante - Adagio 1:29
4 IV 'A tight little band'. Allegretto 2:31
5 V Interlude. Tempestoso 1:18
6 VI Revolution. Andante non troppo - Più mosso - Allegro moderato - 10:33
7 VII Victory. Andante 6:08
8 VIII The Oath. Andante pesante 7:49
9 IX Symphony. Allegro energico - Meno mosso 5:59
10 X The Constitution. Andante assai - Andante molto 5:33
Gennady Rozhdestvensky speaker
Philharmonia Chorus
Excerpts from 'The Tale of the Stone Flower', Op. 118 25:58
11 Ural Rhapsody (Act III No. 29) 9:02
12 Katerina sits by the fire (Act IV No. 39) 2:02
13 Scene and Dance of Katerina (Act IV No. 40) 2:21
14 Russian Dance (Act III No. 31) 4:11
15 Gypsy Dance (Act III No. 32) 2:56
16 Severyan's Dance (Act III No. 33) 1:31
17 Solo of the Gypsy Girl and Coda (Act III No. 34) 3:42

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
'Ivan the Terrible' Concert Scenario 59:14
1 I. Overture 3:04
2 II. Russian Sea 2:40
Contralto soloist and Chorus
III. Wedding 4:37
3 I Allegro fastoso 0:53
Female chorus
4 II Andante 3:05
5 III Allegro fastoso 0:38
Female chorus
6 IV. Fire 2:03
V. Tartars and Canoneers 3:28
7 I Allegro moderato 1:00
8 II Moderato energico 2:28
9 VI. The Storming of Kazan 9:26
VII. Ivan's Sickness 8:03
10 I Adagio 5:40
11 II Andante sostenuto 2:23
12 VIII. At the Polish Court 5:55
13 IX. Anastasia 3:45
14 X. Song of the Beaver (Ephrosynia's Lullaby) 3:16
Contralto soloist and Chorus
XI. The Banquet 5:15
15 I Allegro ben ritmato, feroce 1:53
16 II Allegro moderato 1:55
Baritone soloist and Male chorus
17 III Allegro ben ritmato 1:25
18 XII. Murder in the Cathedral 6:19
19 XIII. Finale (Coda) 1:14
Soloists and Chorus 



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